Thursday, November 30, 2017

Aromas and Smells in My Kitchen

My kitchen is full of aromas and smells -- one of the best things about home cooking! You can really use your sense of smell to make sure that your stew is spiced right. You can tell if something is burning. You can tell if something needs more garlic (and also will know if you have put in too much and it's too late). "Wake up and smell the coffee" is almost a proverb. Your own pizza in the oven smells divine. Toast some seeds like cumin or sesame in a frying pan and enjoy the smell. You just don't get the same sensations with take-out.

Coffee: one of the most recognizable aromas in our lives,
along with peanut butter, chocolate, beer, and some non-foods.
My sister-in-law Jean used to make an amazing brisket recipe years ago. Everyone loved it. I asked her about it, and she hasn't made it for ages, but offered this:
"I think I sprinkled it lightly with pepper & garlic after I coated it with ketchup.  Then heavily put dried onion flakes and a lot of raw carrots. Seal in foil -- not heavy duty foil but the cheap stuff. Bake at 350 degrees till it smells good. Then add water periodically till it smells delicious and it’s done." 
When she gave people this recipe they were always puzzled, but then they tried it and said oh, I see what you mean about smelling delicious.

I was thinking about this recipe in contrast to the iPhone app that lets you write a set of instructions for those faddish Instant Pots. Via Bluetooth, you can command this over-designed device about timing and temperature -- but even a very smart pot has no sense of smell. No way could you program it to make Jean's brisket recipe. In my kitchen: no instant pot! I'll stick with my old slow cooker: it keeps smells in until you lift its lid, which by-the-way, you're not supposed to do.

Aromas play a big role in my kitchen and no doubt in all kitchens. Obviously, they help when cooking and they make us want to eat, but they do much more also. Some fruits don't produce a truly intense smell unless they are overripe, like peaches, which I love, or bananas, which I hate. We all know how foods smell if they aren't tip-top, like turned milk or aging fish or overcooked cabbage.

Then there are foods that just have a wonderful aromatic character, like the following examples from my kitchen. I hope you can almost smell these --

Peppermint -- this is also the time of year for red and white peppermint
candy canes, peppermint-and-chocolate coated cookies, etc.
Rose Water is incredibly aromatic.
Use more than a few drops and you'll regret it!
Caraway seeds, enlarged.
Sage from our garden, which I hung up to dry. Smells so nice!
All the allium family have a strong aroma, especially garlic and shallots.
Onions and garlic are essential for many recipes. I feel sorry for people
who are unable to eat them.
I love lemon! Citrus zest is very aromatic.
There's nothing like a whiff of of Thanksgiving dinner cooking in the oven. This year's Thanksgiving wasn't in my own kitchen,
but I'm including it anyway. We enjoyed preparing, cooking, smelling, and eating all the traditional foods this year.
At the end of each month, many bloggers of my online acquaintance post a collection of photos and descriptions of new or newly-employed ingredients and gadgets in their kitchens. It's near the gift-giving season, so kitchen gadgets are also in the news, such as that Instant Pot (a fad since last Christmas, still going) and the "smart fork" which tells you if you are taking too many bites per minute.

Pizza: first you smell the bubbling yeast as it dissolves.
Then the dough smells so good as it rises.
Finally herbs, tomato sauce, and garlic fill the
kitchen with delicious aromas as it bakes.
In my kitchen at the moment, nothing is new. During November, I cooked almost all of our dinners, but always using ingredients and equipment that I've used before, often for many years. I made a pumpkin stuffed with wheat berries for dinner guests who don't eat meat. I baked pizza from scratch (shown at right). I pan-fried steak; made tuna salad; toasted some cheese sandwiches; concocted chili from leftover meatloaf; and made many other meals. And I enjoyed Thanksgiving Day with everyone cooking dinner in Joel and Aparna's kitchen. But nothing new! So I decided to tell you what aromas, odors, and smells are in my kitchen.

One more thing about the blogger event titled "In My Kitchen" -- some of the participants openly review items they've been "given" by manufacturers in exchange for their supposedly objective opinion. Of course they almost always like what they obtain for free, but sadly, they never say how these gifts compare with other available products. As a result, one never knows if it's worth spending actual money on them. Some of these reviews are interesting, though a few bloggers are just shills, wanting something for nothing. About those blogs that exist only to get free stuff for the bloggers: I won't even look at them!

To see about all the great new things in my blogger friends' kitchens, check the list at Sherry's blog -- link here -- she posts news about her own kitchen each month, and many other bloggers add links to their "In My Kitchen" posts. It's fun to hear about new ingredients from people around the world including Australia, the US, Wales, and other interesting places.


Jeanie said...

I don't like coffee at all -- but I love the smell. One of the things about having a funky nose is that sometimes I can't smell much at all and I hate that because the kitchen is the best place for it! And especially this time of year when there's a whole lot of baking going on!

Mackay Sherry said...

Thanks for joining in again Mae. You are the best:). Yes smells are so important in cooking for sure. Nothing like onion and garlic cooking away in olive oil. And yes to coffee ☕️ and baked bread 🥖 and bacon 🥓 and roast chicken 🍗.... have a great month. Cheers sherry x

Shari Wakefield said...

I think I need to get my hands on some rose water. Shari from

Judee Algazi said...

What a great post. I actually recently started using the Instant Pot and never realized that the aroma of food cooking was missing! I do love my Instant Pot ( I'll be making lentil soup this morning) .. we are a big fan of rose water and orange blossom water. Very enjoyable post

Marg said...

You are so right about smell being an integral part of the cooking process!!

Beth F said...

Coffee, coffee coffee!

Claudia said...

The sense of smell is indeed a wonderful gift, and so important to cooks. I'm with you about all the new appliances, as there's already too many in my kitchen.

jama said...

What a wonderful post, Mae. I imagined all the smells as you named and described them. A keen sense of smell is indeed crucial for good cooking. And many smells have the power to invoke powerful memories of home, family, holidays, friendship and love.

I'm not an instant pot fan either, preferring my slow cooker, and like you, tend to avoid blogs that are more about selling products and kickbacks than honest product reviews.

Vicki said...

My favorite kitchen appliance has always been a slow cooker, and I'm on my 4th one. But I'm seriously thinking about switching to an Instant Pot.

I love the smell of food while it's cooking.

Carole said...

I think I rely on the smell without thinking about it. Have a great week. Cheers from Carole's Chatter

Jennifer Bliss said...

I LOVE the smell (and taste) of mint but I don't eat those mints you have pictured there.

ganna ise said...

My cooking is based on the smells, never mind exact quantities, timing, or heat. And my favorite kitchen appliances are a cutting board and a couple of almighty knives. Oh and the very versatile Y peeler. I do own an ancient microwave and a cheapo rice cooker and I use them a lot but I never bother with graters, and blenders etc just baffle me. 19th century most of the way suits me.

francesca said...

I rely on smell to know when things are cooked, especially bread and soups, and to ascertain how many herbs are needed, so essential. Oh and the smell of coffee- divine.
Yes, I'm with you Mae regarding blogs that flog products. I also don't read blogs that bombard me with ads on the side column.

Kim Bultman said...

Mae, your sister-in-law's brisket recipe "smelled" so good (in my foodie imagination), I copied it down word for word before I read the rest of your post! :) Thanks for that, and also for your fragrant thoughts and aroma-inducing photos. It's truly a blessing being to enjoy food more than just "eating" it! Loved your menu for the month (including your re-purposed meatloaf!) and homemade pizza. Also had to smile about "lifting the lid on the crockpot"... me, too... I can't resist taking a whiff and it always seems to turn out, even if it has to cook a little longer. Thanks, too, for your honest thoughts on blogging for "perks". Take care and Happy Holidays!

Maree Tink said...

Ooooh, I wish I had a 'smell it' app! All my favourite things to have a whiff of here. Strangely though, I can sniff coffee till the cows come home but ca't abide the taste of it. That's how I knew I was pregnant, loved drinking it. I'll be worried if ever I hanker for a cup these days. Love the idea of Thanksgiving and slow cookers are the best appliance over a dishwasher in the kitchen. I also vote no ads orflogging. Cheers, Maree :)

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love the smell and taste of coffee and a big fan of cinnamon too. The book "coming to my senses" sound an interesting book to read. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. xx